Council addresses residential facility, water bill payment plan concerns

By Chris Edwards

When the Groveton City Council met for its monthly meeting on Monday, June 22 at the Groveton City Hall, Mayor Byron Richards had a couple of items on the agenda that he admitted might cause controversy but needed to be discussed and brought to the citizens' attention.

One item, which Mayor Richards had previously brought to the public's attention through the press, was the discussion and action to approve an ordinance to define the use of property within the Groveton city limits as institutional transitional housing. With the support of other community leaders, Mayor Richards had encouraged Groveton residents to write letters to local officials in order to speak out against the opening of such a facility, which would house several teenagers in a facility previously occupied by the Head Start Program. According to Mayor Richards' report, published in the June 18 edition of the Groveton News, the facility would house children with emotional disorders, such as mood disorders, psychotic disorders or dissociative disorders. Mayor Richards said that it was needed to "get something in place...limiting the number of residents" that the facility could hold, if it were to operate within the city limits. According to Mayor Richards, if the number of residents is limited per city ordinance, it would discourage the facility's opening. Mayor Richards suggested the cap on residents of such a facility be placed at five, in the ordinance, which was approved.

Groveton EMS owner David Robison was on hand for an agenda item which was tabled from last month's meeting: a possible agreement between the city and the ambulance service. Robison gave a detailed update of the volume of business the ambulance service has done since his arrival in January and expressed his love for the area and its people, but emphasized that he needed some help to offset operating costs. Mayor Richards thanked Robison for all he has done so far with the service and said "we'll see what we can do to support you." He said it would be more pertinent to look deeper into the matter in July and August when the budget is being figured out. Some discussion ensued between the mayor and council members and one possibility that was suggested was to add a dollar to water bills.

Another item that spawned a good deal of discussion was the water bill adjustment policy for customers. The policy, which was adopted in 2011, allows for water customers to get help from the city when faced with a high water bill due to leaks or equipment malfunctions. Mayor Richards stressed the impact the policy has had on the city's funds and expressed a desire to discontinue it. Councilman Tommy Walton agreed: "I'd like to see us do away with this completely...and have customers with a high bill pay it in installments," he suggested.

The council voted to discontinue the policy effective July 1 and put an amended policy in place.
The council voted to amend the current budget for the Trinity River Authority Service and mid-year adjustment payment schedule. According to Mayor Richards, a budget deficit currently exists due to the Westwood Shores subdivision consuming far less water than they are budgeted for. Mayor Richards said that Westwood Shores has used 36,000 gallons a day, on average, but was budgeted for 168,000 gallons daily use. Mayor Richards said that with the deficit, other districts have had to pick up the slack.

In other business, the council heard a report by Allen Jenkins of Severn-Trent Services, who reported an invoice of $4,677.12 for water and sewage services. He also addressed an amendment to Severn-Trent's service schedule with the city, which will distribute the number of hours through five weekdays (four hours per day). The invoice and service contract agreement were approved.

Groveton Chief of Police John Raiford was absent due to injury, but was able to send his monthly report. Mayor Richards distributed the report and said that 24 stops were made in May by Groveton Police Department and the municipal court had accumulated $2,656.

Discussion was also had on an increase of the number of hours for the city street maintenance department. The increase would have the employees working a day and a half longer to get caught up from the weather damage due to the recent storms and flooding. The increase was approved.

Council also approved an ordinance to decline the change in rates requested in Entergy Texas, Inc.'s statement of intent.

Without further business to address, the council adjourned for the night.